Harley-Davidson ends open house ahead of York Bike Night

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

Harley-Davidson Inc. is ending its longstanding tradition of holding an open house at its Springettsbury Township factory in conjunction with York Bike Night, according to organizers.

The decision could impact the number of out-of-town visitors during the September event. 

"Probably some people will pass; you won't have the crowds that you had in past years," said Warren Smith, vice president of York Motorcycle Club. "You know, why come, unless York can go and really build up expectations?" 

The Eden Road plant will be open for regular factory tours on Thursday and Friday leading up to, but not the day of, the Saturday, Sept. 21, event.

In previous years, Harley has had live music and free demo rides on bikes for the upcoming model year during a three-day open house that ended on that Saturday.

A new group, the York Bike Week committee, aims to make up for the activities visitors and York residents have come to expect at the Harley-Davidson plant, said committee member Sue Adams.

Tina Campbell, left, of Harley-Davidson, prepares to send off a demo rider during the York Bike Week Harley-Davidson York Vehicle Operations Open House in Springettsbury Township, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Bike week: York Bike Week was  introduced last year to amp up the event when some anticipated Harley-Davidson would scale back involvement.

"There had been some speculation that the plant was going to stop doing the open house. We didn't realize it was going to be this quickly," Adams said. 

The York Bike Week committee is coordinating with York City, which runs York Bike Night. Harley-Davidson will once again sponsor the event. 

"We have their full support," Mary Yeaple, York City special events coordinator, said of Harley-Davidson. 

The change shouldn't impact Bike Night festivities, she said. 

"It's still going to be a great annual celebration of the love of motorcycles," she said. 

Bike Week will run Wednesday, Sept. 18, through Saturday's 25th Annual Bike Night, which takes place in and around Continental Square from 4 to 10 p.m. A motorcycle parade will leave the York Expo Center at 5 p.m., and 2020 Harley-Davidson models will be on display in Continental Square after the parade. 

Harley-Davidson representatives did not return a request for comment on Tuesday, Feb. 12. 

'More choices': Based on a survey the committee sent out to bikers, Adams is hopeful Bike Week will bring in the same crowd size — if not larger — than in past years.

"A couple of things were interesting to us," Adams said about the survey responses. "The bikers wanted more choices and more things to do at night." 

Even when it was an option, the Harley-Davidson plant would close about 4 p.m., she said. 

"Bikers coming into town are looking for a variety of things to do, because once you get through (the plant), what are you going to do?" she said. 

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Bike Week will feature events throughout the county, kicking off with a Wednesday night event at Quaker Steak and Lube, 1411 Kenneth Road. There also will  be events at the Tourist Inn in Hellam Township and Goofy's in Spring Grove, as well as a hill climb in Jefferson on Saturday.

More events will be announced soon. 

By creating new activities for Bike Week, there will be "more of a draw" than before, Adams said. 

"People don’t want to come for just one night," she said. "I think it's going to be a pretty positive thing."

As more sponsors and events are announced, the York Bike Week website will be updated. 

— Rebecca Klar can be reached at rklar@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_